Democratic Republic of the Congo
Current issues and what the World Food Programme is doing
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is in Central Africa. With a total area of 2,344,860 km 2, it is the continent’s second largest country, and the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Excluding the Great Lakes in the east and the waterways of the interior, DRC has a land area of 2,267,050 km 2. Of this, 67.6 percent is forest - the sixth largest forest area of any country in the world. However, DRC’s agricultural area is only 262,000 km 2 (11.17 percent), and this land shortage is one of several factors underlying DRC’s food production deficit, which is estimated to be 30-40 percent.
Of DRC’s population of 74.88 million, 63.6 percent live below the poverty line and lack access to adequate food. Some 7 million people in DRC are food insecure. The national global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate is 8 percent, with ten territories having GAM rates above the emergency threshold of 15 percent.
According to DRC’s Demographic and Health Survey 2013-14, among children under five, 43 percent are chronically malnourished (stunted), and 23 percent are acutely malnourished (wasted), with rates of between 52 and 53 percent in North and South Kivu and Kasaï Occidental provinces. Life expectancy is 58 years. UNDP’s 2015 Human Development Index ranks DRC 176th out of 188 countries.
The country has vast mineral resources and should be wealthy. However, since independence in 1960, the population has endured political upheaval, corruption and mismanagement, a coup, two wars and numerous more localized conflicts, many of which are still ongoing. The natural resources that should have been DRC’s salvation have repeatedly proved to be a curse. Misappropriated by officials (most notably the second president, Joseph Mobutu [1965-97]); plundered (as conflict diamonds and gold) to fund carnage; and squandered through undervalued sales of mining concessions, their misuse has brought misery to DRC’s population. The country’s infrastructure remains broken - through neglect dating from the Mobutu regime, and as the result of decades of conflict.
Following the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda in 1994, over a million Hutus fled to eastern DRC (then called Zaire) because they feared reprisals from Rwanda’s new Tutsi government. They were pursued by ethnic Congolese Tutsis at Rwanda’s behest and with the support of Uganda and Angola, and hundreds of thousands of refugees were killed in what became known as the First Congo War.
Mobutu fled in 1997, leaving the state in ruins, and was replaced by the Tutsi militia’s leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who renamed the country Democratic Republic of the Congo. He expelled the Rwandan and Ugandan militias who had brought him to power; they responded by establishing a base in Goma. In 1998 they took on DRC’s army which, in turn, was supported by forces from Angola, Chad, Libya, Namibia and Zimbabwe, and indirectly by Sudan.
The conflict, now known as the Second Congo War or the African World War, lasted until a peace agreement, the Pretoria Accord, was signed in 2002; however, regional conflicts continue to this day.
Laurent-Désiré Kabila was assassinated in 2001, and was succeeded by his son Joseph Kabila who, in addition to signing the Accord, appealed to the UN for help. The UN deployed a vast peacekeeping force, MONUC (now MONUSCO), that has been active ever since. A transitional government was installed but failed. The second of two elections in 2006 produced a majority for Joseph Kabila who has served two successive terms.
A study by the International Rescue Committee estimated that between 1998 and 2007 some 5.4 million people had died as a result of the war, 2.5 million of them since the peace agreement, and almost all of them through starvation and preventable and treatable disease. The current total is unknown.
In 2010, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights issued a report documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in DRC between 1993 and 2003, noting that, ‘Very few Congolese and foreign civilians living on the territory of the DRC managed to escape the violence, and were victims of murder, mutilation, rape, forced displacement, pillage, destruction of property or economic and social rights violations.’
Sexual violence, widely used as a weapon of war, continues at astonishing rates. A study published in 2011 in the American Journal of Public Health found that in 2007 alone, over 400,000 women in DRC had been raped. A review of cases in South Kivu found that of the victims there, ‘6 percent were younger than 16 years and 10 percent were older than 65 years.’
In 2013, the UN Security Council approved the addition of an intervention brigade to MONUSCO’s forces to neutralize and disarm rebel groups. The March 23 Movement (M23) that had briefly taken over Goma in 2012 was overpowered in 2013. In 2015, Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FPRI) members surrendered. However, numerous other armed groups remain at large, including Rwandan FDLR rebels, the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), and the Simba militia that encompasses several Mai Mai groups. The abduction of children to become soldiers, widespread sexual violence and other brutality against civilians, and trafficking of minerals and other natural resources continue.
In 2016, conflict persists in the eastern provinces, Maniema and North and South Kivu, and in Katanga province in the south east, with tens of thousands newly displaced. In January 2016, the UN estimated that 7.5 million people in DR Congo, or 9 per cent of the population, were in need of food and other humanitarian aid. Most of these are in the eastern provinces.
What are the current issues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?
DRC is one of the poorest and least developed nations on earth. In addition to widespread and extreme poverty, this sustained and complex emergency currently includes numerous armed conflicts in its Eastern provinces, political crises in neighboring Central Africa Republic, Burundi and South Sudan, as well as mounting internal tensions ahead of planned presidential elections in November 2016.
Internally displaced persons and refugees
With some 1.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in the country, fighting between the national army supported by the MONUSCO's Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), and between 40 and 70 armed groups continues to drive people from their homes. More than 900,000 former IDPs have returned to their homes in the past 18 months, often to find that their houses and possessions have been destroyed or looted. Meanwhile, an estimated 250,000 refugees are currently living in DRC, including more than 105,000 from CAR, and around 18,000 from Burundi.
Health and nutrition indicators are matters of grave concern. DRC’s average global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate is 10.7 percent, with some territories having GAM rates above the emergency threshold of 15 percent.
DRC’s child mortality rates are among the highest in the world. According to the country’s Demographic and Health Survey 2013-14, 8 percent of children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition, and about 43 percent are chronically malnourished and show signs of growth retardation.
In DRC’s conflict-affected Eastern provinces, some 4.5 million people are currently in a situation of acute and livelihood crisis. The Democratic Republic of the Congo possesses vast mineral wealth and the world's second largest rainforest. However, decades of war and mismanagement have resulted in economic stagnation and a deterioration of its infrastructure.
What the World Food Programme is doing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
WFP has been present in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1973. At present, our work aims to alleviate chronic hunger in DRC and assist in recovery efforts. Given the lack of infrastructure, the inaccessibility of many communities in need, and the ongoing security situation, WFP Aviation, the Food Cluster (which WFP co-leads) and the Logistics and Information Cluster (led by WFP) are heavily involved in operations.
Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation
In 2016, WFP’s Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) aims to assist 1.6 million people in DRC . The purpose of this PRRO is to:
- Provide life-saving food assistance for IDPs, refugees and vulnerable host communities in conflict-affected areas in Eastern DRC;
- Provide relief assistance to IDPs and refugees using modalities such as cash and vouchers or food distributions, depending on the context;
- Support the early recovery of people returning to their areas of origin through assistance such as Emergency School Feeding, which contributes to increasing school attendance and restoring a sense of normality;
- Reduce, through supplemental support, the prevalence of acute malnutrition in children aged 6-59 months and pregnant and breastfeeding women in areas where Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) affects more than 10 percent of the population; and
- Support smallholder farmers’ access to local markets and education by improving infrastructure.
In 2016, WFP plans to provide food assistance to some 130,000 Central African refugees living in camps near the Ubangi River, the natural frontier between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic (C.A.R.). As the conflict in C.A.R. continues to unfold and affect its neighbors, refugees’ needs will remain high for the foreseeable future.
Food Security Cluster
The Food Security Cluster is co-led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and WFP, and co-facilitated by two international non-governmental organizations, Caritas Belgium and Première Urgence. In DRC, the Food Security Cluster is tasked with the following: supporting service delivery; facilitating well-informed strategic decision-making of the Humanitarian Coordination Team for humanitarian response; fostering strategic planning and development; advocacy; monitoring and assessment; and contingency planning. For more information, please see the Food Security Cluster’s DRC page (in French)
The Special Operation for the Logistics Cluster Coordination and Information Management provides a range of logistics support and services to the humanitarian community to ensure efficient and coordinated delivery of humanitarian assistance in DRC. For more information, please see the Logistics Cluster’s DRC page
WFP Aviation, one of WFP’s logistics services, is custodian of the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), which provides common air services for the humanitarian community, enabling them to reach vulnerable beneficiaries in some of the world’s most remote and challenging locations. UNHAS has been supporting the humanitarian response in DRC since 2008, providing safe, flexible, efficient, and cost-effective air transportation to UN partners, non-governmental organizations, diplomatic missions, and donor representatives. For more information, please see UNHAS DRC’s fact sheet.
WFP is strengthening smallholder farmers’ access to agricultural commodity markets. We do this by developing farmers’ capacity to produce and trade, and by constructing or rehabilitating infrastructure that enables farmers to connect with markets and traders. These inputs helps build marketing infrastructures in rural areas, which in turn facilitate commodity bulking.
World Food Programme partners in Democratic Republic of the Congo
WFP cannot fight global hunger and poverty alone. These are our partners in Democratic Republic of Congo:
- Association pour le Développement Social et la Sauvegarde de l'Environnement (ADSSE), Kinshasa
- Caritas Belgium
- Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe
- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
- International Committee of the Red Cross
- The International Organization for Migration
- The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
- The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
- The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
- World Vision International
Private enterprise partners for cash and voucher transfers:
Featured Congo, DR publications
A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.
The Emergency Dashboard provides a visual overview of the most relevant operational information related to WFP’s response in the emergency, including geographical, funding, and performance related information.
Looking for more publications on Congo, DR? Visit the Congo, DR publications archive.